Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The massive make-or-break Korean College Entrance Exam

The all important College Entrance Exam is tomorrow and my school's given most of the teachers, myself included, the day off. At this time last year I still had middle school classes on Thursdays, so I still had to in to what looked like a ghost school, but this year's different because all of my middle school classes happen on Mondays and Tuesdays.

The College Entrance Exam represents the culmination of the Korean student's primary and secondary schooling. The test more or less determines each student's destiny.

The 1st and 2nd grade high schoolers get a much-needed holiday as well. Good for them. They've been working quite hard. The 1st graders in particular have steadily improving in their writing and speaking abilities. Expect a post about their writings soon!

Here are some links for further reading:

Korea4Expats - "College Entrance Exam"
The first two paragraphs (emphasis mine):

The exam begins and ends at the same time all over the country - 8:40AM to 6:05PM on the 2nd Thursday of the month. Results are officially released during the 2nd week of December (in 2008 the test was on Thursday 13 November and the results published on Wednesday 10 December).
On this day, workers at government offices and public firms all over the country are allowed to arrive at work an hour later (10AM rather than 9AM)so reduce traffic congestion and ensure that all students arrive at the exam place on time. The stock market may open late and close early. The frequency of trains and buses is increased between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m.. Motorists are prohibited from honking their horns near schools and teams of volunteers and special police units work as traffic managers. Parking is banned within a 200-meter radius of test  venues.  The Civil Aviation Safety Authority restricts aircraft operations near the exam sites so that noise will not disturb students during listening tests. Flights,  both domestic and international, operated by national and foreign carriers will have their takeoff schedules altered between 8:35 a.m. and 8:58 a.m. and 1:05 p.m. and 1:35 p.m. on exam day so air travelers should  to check their flight schedule in advance on the 2nd Thursday of November. Strikers and protestors will often suspend their demonstrations for that day. The military, U.S. and Korean, will usually halt live-fire training and aviation missions.

Los Angeles Times: "South Koreans hold collective breath on exam day"

Christian Science Monitor: "South Korea shuts down for the all-or-nothing Korean SAT"

Key passage:

But the pressure-laden path to the test, say critics, is one littered with some of South Korea's most glaring social ills. Though its education system is held up as a model around the world, with about 80 percent of high school students going on to college, South Korea harbors one of the world's most astronomical levels of private education costs forked out by parents intent on ensuring their children get ahead. And some have linked the test to some of the increasing number of teen suicides in the country.

This is true. Most all of my students go to on private school or another to supplement their regular schooling.

Best of luck to Cheorwon's 3rd grade high school students tomorrow!

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